Is Innovative Disruption A Tool Of The Future?

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr SS Mantha stresses on how the concept of innovative disruption can be a game changer for businesses and political parties alike


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New strategies are emerging to succeed in business and politics. Businessmen and political parties are increasingly discussing strategies of innovative disruption to succeed. The days of four propositions suggested by prominent political scientist, Joel Bradshaw for developing a successful campaign strategy are possible passé.

Two years ago, Harvard Business Review reported the theory of disruptive innovation, as having proved to be a powerful way of thinking about innovation-driven growth. A series of reports from Deloitte University Press on disruption are worth a read. Many leaders of small, entrepreneurial companies praise it as their guiding star. Executives even in large, well-established organizations like Intel, Southern New Hampshire University, and, swear by disruption for success.

Merchant Cash and Capital (MCC) specializes in small business loans to companies that are unable to get traditional loans from banks and credit unions. MCC has changed the entire experience of borrowing money by eliminating the need for a personal guarantee, reducing the amount of paperwork for underwriting, and by funding in three days instead of weeks or months. SDL, SIMPLE, Okta, HelloWorld, Mendix, ItsOn, Avande, 2Checkout, and GPShopper are all disrupting existing business practices, challenging the established players and are actually seen as the trend setters.

Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. Politics is the new baby on the block.

“Disruption” as described by Harvard Business review is a process, whereby a smaller company with fewer resources, is able to successfully challenge, established incumbent businesses specifically, as incumbents focus, on improving their products and services for their most demanding and usually most profitable customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Challengers, that prove disruptive, begin by successfully targeting, those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality, frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability, in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Challengers, then move upmarket, delivering the performance, that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving, the advantages, that drove their early success. When mainstream customers, start adopting the challengers’ offerings in volume; disruption has occurred. Innovative disruption in politics is similar and can pay rich dividends for the parties that disrupt and challenge established players.

Adopting and appropriating this theory, a typical challenger political party took on the professionals in their own backyard. They overlooked business segments as marginalised people, who would then be their most ardent supporters, recreated sustainable functionality through judicious use of technology and added value for services delivered and pitched them as value for money.

Incumbents, obviously would be pushed back several notches, unable to compete and would be forced to lie low in these demanding times, looking for an already yielded political space, of similar disruptive opportunities. The innovative disruptor will now move upmarket, and even into uncharted waters so to say, delivering performance and value as they go along driving themselves to success.

UBER is a classic example in business. In politics, two main political parties are classic examples of incumbent and challenger dispensations, in political world a couple of years back. The mainstream customers or the populace have now started adopting the offerings in volume. The challenger party that has singularly contributed to the political innovative disruption has truly arrived.

Be it, demonetisation that broke the back of black currency or nationwide implementation of Goods and Services Tax, or the thrust on digital economy as a way of life or the passing of the triple talaq bill by the cabinet, all are massive disruptions that in some way benefit the last mile in the supply chain. Aadhar linking to services offered has still unexplored possibilities that may connect people like never before or may also manifest in ways that can disrupt human lives irrevocably. Disruption must as a rule, seek the attention of the common man or woman on the street, by demonstrating a will to walk the talk. Initiation is noble, but implementing a process is doubly noble.

The problem with conflating a disruptive innovation with any breakthrough that changes a Country’s ideological patterns is that different types of innovation require different strategic approaches. The flip side of this is that the lessons one learns about succeeding as a disruptive innovator, or defending against a disruptive challenger may not apply to every social milieu in shifting aspirational value systems and expectations of imaginative youngsters. If we get sloppy with the implementation models or fail to integrate insights from subsequent research and experience into the original theory, then political managers may end up using the wrong tools for their context, reducing their chances of success. Over time, the theory’s usefulness will be undermined.

It is also sometimes necessary that cultural and social conventions are not followed. The disruption strategy masters must anticipate future trends to determine what could lift the party higher and then define a disruption platform to get them there. A bullet train, a sea plane, a roll-in roll-out ferry service are innovations that catch the imagination and pulse of the people.   

The Gujarat elections prove a point. Simple disruption strategy was akin to carpet bombing. All the tall leaders descended on the scene of action with each ones role, pretty well defined andthe leader being always there to lead from the front. How many times have we seen a state election been taken as seriously as has been done now? Innovative disruption seeks a method in the madness.

Innovative disruption must identify triggers in the cultural milieu that are meaningful to the people’s needs. These triggers must then be interpreted in real-time, and then determine the course of action in order for the innovation to be responsive and relevant. That course of action could be a tweet, or it could be a PR stunt, the beginning of a campaign or a new thought process. It can be anything and not necessarily executed by the innovators themselves.

Technology has a massive role in realising the potential of such innovative disruptions. The challenger to this process two years back used technology and continues to use in so many innovative ways that the experts are constantly challenged to deliver. Big data analytics, people profiling, use of artificial Intelligence, use of intelligent agents to build cutting edge applications, and projection of data and people, based on intelligent patterns that evolve, you name it, all have been used leaving the incumbent to end up a poor second. Trendsetting on steroids is the way to go. This is an age of empathy. Competition will never stand still. Backlash must be created every single day for innovative outcomes. Backlash must then be contained with more innovation. Political astuteness and a will to take the bull by the horn are indeed virtues.

These are certainly exciting times with digital disruption disrupting our lives every single day. What could be more exciting than the fact that, for once, this change is being triggered by our political masters?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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